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January 2, 1912

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Public Library and Central Park, ca. 1915

Postcards from the Past

On January 2nd, 1912 Calgarians celebrated the official opening of Calgary Public Library in Central Park. The building still stands and houses the Memorial Park Library.

This was Alberta's first public library and was the first Carnegie library in the province, so called because it was partially financed by wealthy American steel industrialist and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. The library opened with 5000 volumes on its shelves; 1000 fiction titles, 1000 in biography and history, 1000 in travel, 1000 children's books and 1000 reference books. T.A.P. Frost was the first of over seventy citizens to register as borrowers that first day which was remarkable considering that though the books were on the shelves, they were not available for borrowing.

This postcard, from our Postcards From the Past section of the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library, shows the bandstand and the South African War memorial statue by Louis Hebert.

For more information on this beautiful library visit our Virtual Tours of Historic Calgary .

There are a number of books which discuss the history of the library and the people behind it. Esther Gorosh's Calgary's Temple of Knowledge: A History of Calgary Public Library (027.47123 GOR) outlines the early history of the library system. Alexander Calhoun by Donna Lohnes and Barbara Nicholson (020.924 CAL L) is a brief biography of the fascinating man who became the Chief Librarian of the new library and whose vision gave shape to the library for generations to come.

Christmas at the Grand Union Hotel

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 696

The Grand Union Hotel, designed by noted architect William Dodd, was built in 1905 on Atlantic Avenue (or Whisky Row, as it was affectionately known). It was operated by A. Moodie, who also owned the Royal Hotel. The horse-drawn bus, seen in the picture, ferried travellers to and from the train station, four blocks away. The balconies could be seen from the station and offered views of the activity along Atlantic Avenue as well as views of the mountains. In 1906, just a year after it opened, it offered a sumptuous menu for Christmas dinner. The menu included familiar favourites such as creamed potatoes, corn on the cob, mince pie and French fries. It also included the more sophisticated fare:

Canape of Caviar, Clear Green Turtle Soup, Cream of Oysters

Planked White Fish de Hanover Sauce

Sweet Breads Braized [sic] a la Rothchild

Domestic Duck with Boston Clam Dressing

Saddle of Venison, Black Currant Jelly

Lobster Salad au Cresson

For dessert you could choose between Plum Pudding with Brandy sauce, three kinds of pie and pineapple trifle, ice cream, Oka cheese and jelly.

The Local History Collection in the Central Library includes many menus from Calgary establishments. You can find them in the library catalogue by typing the name of the establishment and the word 'menu' in the search box on the Calgary Public Library homepage (http://calgarypubliclibrary.com/)

Grand Union Menu coverMenu

Research Plus

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Alexander Calhoun and the staff of the new Calgary Public Library, ca 1912

Calgary Public Library Archives

The library is a great place to do research. We have loads of resources to help with even the most difficult questions. And that is great if you have the time and the skills needed to do your own research. But what if you don't? Did you know that we have a service that can, for a fee, do your research for you? ResearchPlus provides customized, comprehensive fee-based research for individuals and businesses, as well as book loans, document delivery, photocopying, faxing and more.

If you are a member of an organization who may use the library and ResearchPlus, a Calgary Public Library organizational card is only $60 per year and gives you access to this service as well as many other Library resources!

For more information about how ResearchPlus can help you or your organization, contact us at 403-260-2712 or by email at researchplus@calgarypubliclibrary.com

Merry Christmas

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Carnegie Library, Calgary, Alberta, ca. 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 152

Anyone who has read this blog knows about the very cool postcard collection that we have here in the Local History room. Many images on the blog are pulled from that collection, which can be viewed from the Community Heritage and Family History site by clicking on the link Postcards from the Past on the left side of the page. In that collection are quite a number of Christmas postcards – generally consisting of a vignette of a building or a scene from Calgary in an embossed card with a Christmas greeting in red around the picture. The card in this entry is a view of what is now Memorial Park Library.

These cards mostly date from the ‘teens, a time when the craze for picture postcards was at its highest. All kinds of innovative cards were produced, such as “diamond dust” cards on which the picture was outlined in a kind of sparkle. These cards wreaked havoc with the electric stamping machines and were, for a short time, banned.

Though Christmas cards were invented in 1843, the postcard craze at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century reduced their popularity. Postcards were less expensive to send and were a quick and easy way of sending greetings to family back home.

To see more examples of Christmas postcards from the Calgary Public Library collection, visit the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library and search the site using the term “Christmas”.

The Sickness or the Cure

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

iStockOne of the greatest perks in this job is the opportunity it provides to peruse some of the strangest and most interesting books you can imagine. I occasionally wander through the stacks to find interesting items to use in displays or when we are giving tours. I especially have my eye open for unusual sources for genealogists. Imagine my delight when I tripped over York Factory Medical Journals 1846-1849. This fascinating book is exactly what its title promises – the journals of the physician, Dr. William Smellie, who was assigned to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the denizens of York Factory, a Hudson's Bay Company trading post. The journals record the names, professions ages and genders of the patients as well as the symptoms of their illnesses and the treatment for them. Which raises the question, which was worse, the illness or the cure? For example, take the case of Baptiste Potvin, a labourer who visited the doctor on the 24th of March, 1847:

Complains of headache & lassitude: pulse full & moderate tongue of natural appearance: man of a stout habit of body. Habeat Calomelanos gr viii in pillula *** mica panis. (Take 8 grains of Mercurous Chloride in a pill with a crumb of bread)

Now, mercurous chloride is a purgative. Hardly a common treatment for headache today. Dr. Smellie continues:

Pill operated Copiously: headache unrelieved but the symptoms no wise more urgent. Habeat Vin. Antim 3 i pro em. (Have 1 ounce of Antimony wine for an emetic.) acknowledges himself much relieved by the emetic: subsequently: went to work.

I would have shut my mouth about the headache and gone back to work, too!

If you would like to read more of these journals, the book is available to view in the Local History Room on the 4th floor of the Central Library. It includes lots of interesting background information about the doctor himself, York Factory and the medical practices of the day. The book was edited by Colin and Elizabeth Briggs. The call number is 610.97127 BRI.

Old News is the Best News

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

I love old newspapers. I could sit reading them for days on end (or at least until I get a microfilm headache). Most genealogists know that newspaper announcements can be a fabulous source for obituaries and other event announcements. They often include details that can’t easily be found in other sources. My problem, when I am looking for these announcements, is that I’m distracted by all the other stuff that newspapers offer. There is nothing better for gauging the tenor of the times in which our ancestors lived than a read through the daily (or weekly) paper. For example, I found this in The Eye Opener as I was researching popular response to Alberta becoming a province:

“Parting with the Territories is not sweet sorrow. It is a joy that has been adulterated with too much Edmonton.” Plus ça change…

And on the bottom of the same page:

“The N.W.M.P. authorities have finally closed all the maisons de diablerie a travers le pont de Langevin. C’est dommage, as the feller says.” (The Eye Opener 2 Sept. 1905: 1)

Calgary Public Library has lots of old newspapers in its collection. In addition to a complete run of the Calgary Herald, CPL holds microfilm copies of the Strathmore Standard, The Edmonton Bulletin, The Fort Macleod Gazette, The Calgary News Telegram and The Cardston News, just to name a few. The Alberta Heritage Digitization Project has made many Alberta newspapers available online. I visit their site at www.ourfutureourpast.ca regularly to get my newspaper fix. We can also request newspapers that we don’t have in our collection through our interlibrary loan service. Ask us if you are looking for a local newspaper for your ancestor’s hometown.

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Herald Building, built 1913

Postcards from the Past, PC 765